Martin Wezowski is SAP’s chief designer. Until the age of 14, Martin grew up in Poland, which in the early 1980’s was controlled by the hardline communist Polish United Workers’ Party. Far from an ideal place to live, Martin fled with his family to the small, picturesque, harbor town of Karlshamn in the south of Sweden, where he spent his teenage years.
Martin currently works in the Global Design team out of Berlin, Germany. Prior to joining SAP in 2013, he worked for Sony Ericsson in Sweden as creative director, art director and UX designer for 7 years. He also lived in Shenzhen, China for 2 years while serving as director of the UX team at Huawei. There he helped to bring the Chinese tech giant’s consumer design from number 8 to number 3 in the marketplace.
Please briefly explain what you do at SAP as chief designer.
One of my focus areas is to investigate the UX enabling technologies that serve as the basis for, amongst other things, the evolution of SAP Fiori. The virtual team that I lead in this work is called NxT (New Experiences and Technologies). We look beyond the current horizon of the important work that many teams are doing to bring the Fiori 2.0 vision to the market. Essentially we articulate which strategically important future problems can be solved through design, rather than doing the (equally important and hard) job of describing design solutions in pixels.
To develop future-safe ideas sustainably, SAP as an intelligence community needs to embrace a way of behaving and socializing where thinking as a designer (without necessarily being one) is central. This is why we need a creative culture at SAP. And so, I am also a passionate core team member of the so-called “Design Whizzes.” The Whizzes are designers, product owners and developers from across the company. All work only a small part of their time as Whizzes, but still initiate and drive very important activities like the “design eye opener” workshop, a full-day design awareness training, and the SAP design talks, an inspirational series which brings design and industry leaders to speak at SAP. The vision is clear: everyone at SAP should deeply understand that, regardless of their role, everyone here is responsible for user experience in one way or another. We can and should take an active part in shaping that.
What did you study?
I studied construction engineering, and I still have a huge interest in technology and science. I also studied modern media production technologies. I spent many hours, days and nights producing visual assets. I designed everything from full webpages, posters, ads, and loads of interfaces for mobile.
But I also had a career in music, which I left behind 7 years ago. Playing in a band and managing it as a business give me a 360-view of a product life cycle, from the initial idea to getting customers to return and eventually to building up a fan base. You need to understand every tiny detail and at the same time see the full strategic overview. It was very educational!
How did your studies prepare you for a career in design?
I think the sum of the parts of my experience is bigger than any separate piece of education I received. But maybe that goes for all of us. Engineering gave me an absolute respect for the tech guys in my work life as well as the business perspective for a future endeavor. I believe tech guys and designers are made from the same sort of “material.” We are tinkerers and makers; we are curious and love to solve problems. I feel a strong connection there.
What do you enjoy most about your job at SAP?
The journey from foresight through insight to product – it’s just damn exiting! Looking across the diversity of skills in the design teams and the whole of SAP, I feel there is unlimited access to world-class intellect and knowledge. It’s truly inspiring to meet and work with so many clever colleagues. I like the quote from Douglas Merrill, “all of us are smarter than any of us.” That certainly applies to my work.
What are the most challenging aspects of your work?
We at SAP are in the business of innovation, and our challenge is to nurture ideas, together. The problems we want to solve are way too complex to be addressed by a single individual or even one team, especially when the solutions must be brought to market. We need to gather and make connections among many, many ideas. Then we need to evaluate them and have a clear point of view on how they will dramatically improve the quality of the time people spend at work. We need to relentlessly ask ourselves how these solutions will improve enterprise software and the future of work.
This is hard to achieve because we are at the same time in the business of incrementally improving existing solutions that our customers depend on. It is a huge responsibility that takes a tremendous amount of focus. It is easy to lose the vision and the long-term perspective that are necessary for us to deliver the best user experience in the enterprise world not just for the products we are working on today but also in the near future.
What teams do you work with?
I work with design colleagues throughout the company as well as product owners who gives us insight into specific business situations to be solved. I also work closely with the SAP Innovation Center Network in Potsdam and with a strong coalition of technology colleagues without whom we would not be able to prove our concepts. The core of the NxT team is small. It’s me and two of the most experienced architects in the software business I have ever met: Peer Hilgers, who is the best when it comes to connecting future user experience scenarios to technology solutions, and Leif Jensen-Pistorius, who is amazingly talented at bringing use cases to life. As a member of the Global Design leadership team, I can connect our findings to the Global Design solutions you find in SAP Fiori and its future forms. We need these strong cross-team collaborations throughout the organization in order to solve complex problems.
How is design changing the way we imagine products and services?
People ignore design that ignores people. Period. We all use a broad range of tools and solutions and therefore have a good idea about what is world class. There is no way to sneak in something that is not up to people’s standards. And increasingly knowledge workers are gaining the freedom to decide how, when and with which tools they want to work. They will ignore solutions that directly or indirectly ignore them, their needs, their ambitions and their consumer-grade standards. Designing with empathy and being truly human-centered in our methods changes the way we support people at work.
You have been at SAP for three years now. How do you see the changes at SAP with regard to design and user experience since you joined?
I’m very happy with the direction we are taking, actually more than that, I’m really excited. SAP started a game-changing journey with a focus on user experience just a few years ago. I see strong support from the board and executives, and I see a growing awareness and active desire amongst all of us to be at the cutting edge of user experience for enterprise software. I also see tendencies to be the best in user experience, not only as a business software provider but as a user experience provider period. This sets a totally new benchmark for ourselves and our industry. I see a huge potential to be the thought leaders in user experience on a large scale. This is probably the most exciting time for SAP ever.
Is there a quote that guides you?
Our Chief Design Officer, Sam Yen, often cites Arthur Schopenhauer, “Talent hits a target no one else can hit. Genius hits a target no one else can see.” I love this challenge, and I love this quote!
Martin, thank you for the interview!
Thank you, Esther.
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